Struggles at the plate lead to 4-1 loss to Grant

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By Kristin Beck

A combination of missed opportunities and pure bad luck stymied the baseball Panthers’ offense Wednesday, May 9. Carroll had bases loaded two different innings and produced just one run, losing 4-1. Grant also made a number of momentum-killing plays, including a diving catch by the shortstop to end the game.

Head coach Josh Mefford called the game a “tough loss,” especially since the Panthers defeated the Braves 11-1 on opening day.

“Every game we struggle hitting, we don’t score many runs,” he said. “It’s something we struggle at, something we’ve got to get better at.”

Mefford said the team sometimes has straight-hitting practices and hits perfectly in the cage.

“I think it’s confidence, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s part of being a young team,” he said. “I just think it’s lack of confidence, and I think we don’t swing at good (pitches) when we get them and when we get down in the count, we start to panic and swing at the bad ones.”

The Panthers first missed opportunity came in the bottom of the second. Derrick Nickell walked, and Zach Beckham moved him to second with a sac bunt. Chase Osborne popped straight up to the pitcher, but he lost the ball in the sun. Dillon Craig also collected a walk, loading the bases. But Carroll could not capitalize as Jacob Wise struck out to end the inning.

Grant took advantage of Carroll’s missed opportunity, scoring a run in the top of the third off an RBI double to right by Jordan Martin. The Braves loadedthe bases on Carroll starting pitcher Osborne with a walk. But Osborne struck back, whiffing the next batter and forcing a pop-up to second baseman Austin Dunn to end the inning.

Carroll went down in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings, while Grant collected another run in the top of the fifth.

Carroll’s Zakk Hicks came in for relief in the top of the sixth and forced a fly out and struck out two batters in the inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Dunn hit a slow roller to short stop and beat out the throw. But Carroll could not capitalize, as a missed bunt and a missed steal sign got Dunn tagged out at second, and Hicks popped up at second to end the inning.

Grant loaded the bases in the top of the seventh and a passed ball scored a run. Ben Shipp followed with a single to shallow center, 4-0. The inning ended with a strikeout by Hicks and a fly out to Craig in center.

With the game on the line, Nickell led off with a single past the shortstop. With two outs, Craig hit a single to leftfield. Wise hit a groundball to third, which was bobbled and allowed all runners to reach safely. Dunn walked to score Carroll’s first run of the game. Trey Boles came up to bat and swung at the first pitch, hitting a sharp line drive to shortstop. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the fielder dove and came up with the grab to end the game.

“I think we just had a lot of bad luck. When we do hit it, we hit it right at somebody,” Mefford said. “That’s what I told them. I said ‘If we would play every inning like we play our last inning, we would win a lot more games.’ We don’t start doing anything until the last two innings.”